Saturday, December 31, 2011

December 2011: Can I feed a family of 5 for $450/month?

I have gotten a bit behind in my grocery posts with the holidays. So, this post is meant to update from the last time I purchased groceries. :)

Health Food Store:
Honey $4.19
Organic Valley Milk $4.99
Organic Valley Half/Half $2.69
Namaste Pizza Crust mix $10.69
Namaste Biscuit/Pie crust/etc mix $10.99

Total: $33.55

Dollar General:
2 frostings for $1.80 ea
Nutella $2.95
Trident $1
Santa Coal for Stockings $1

Total: $8.55

Amount left after last grocery shop: $54.01 - 33.55 - 8.55 = $11.91 left for the rest of the  month.

I can't believe we made it to today, the last day of the month, with money left over! The kids complained here and there about the dwindling snacks and the lack of macaroni and cheese, but we dealt fine with it, and there's still food in the house. :)

Thanks for reading! 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

December 2011: Can I feed a family of 5 for $450/month?

(oops, posting this one a bit late---must have forgotten in the holiday hubbub last week!)

After making my menu plan for the rest of the month, I went back to the store (been doing a lot of that this month for some reason...not planning as well, I suppose).

Local Grocery:
3 pkg of large flour tortillas for burritos $6.27
1 family pack of small tortillas $2.59
S 2 loaves whole wheat bread $4.78
bag of mini pretzels $2.29

S 2 bags corn tortilla chips $5

S 2 pints Daisy sour cream $4
S Rediwhip (for the Elderberry cobbler I plan on making) $2.29
LaCreme Hazelnut coffee creamer (shhhhh) $2.59

S Nestle chocolate chips $2.50
Nutella (big jar) $7.29
Skippy Natural Peanut Butter $3.89

Bananas $1.80
Mushrooms $1.00

Trident $1.29

Total came to $50.67

Total from last update: $104.68 - 50.67 = $54.01 left for the rest of the month.

I anticipate needing to purchase milk, possibly eggs, and produce before the end of the month.
We'll see how it goes! :)

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

December 2011: Menu Planning for the remaining month

With just under $105 left in my grocery budget for the rest of the month, I am sitting down and writing a menu/snack plan. Smart idea, as the kids will be home for their school break.

Breakfast Options:
  • Cold Cereal
  • Hot Cereal
  • Eggs
  • Bacon
  • Biscuits and Gravy (need to find a GF biscuit recipe)
  • Muffins
  • Cinnamon Rolls for Christmas (maybe, if I can manage to do a GF version AND a regular version)

Lunch Options:
  • Leftovers
  • Various canned soups I've had on hand "just in case" that need to be eaten and restocked
  • Sandwiches-nut butter and jelly, tuna/salmon, egg
  • Spaghetti

Snack Options:
  • Apples, Oranges, Carrots
  • Popcorn
  • Cereal mix with odds and ends from the pantry: cereal, marshmallows, chocolate chips, dried fruit, nuts
  • Cookies...if we do some baking in the next few days...
  • Zucchini brownies...still have a few bags of zucchini in the freezer
  • "cheesy tortillas"
Supper Options:
  • Ham & Beans and Cornbread
  • Curry/Dahl over Rice
  • Turkey Soup
  • Beef Stroganoff
  • Sausage/potatoes/other veggie
  • Pizza
  • Turkey and noodles?
  • Burritos (refried bean? black bean and sweet potato?)
  • Enchiladas (need to make masa flour tortillas)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

December 2011: Can I feed a family of 5 for $450/month?

Went to the grocery and the health food store the other day.

box of Stash tea (free w/coupon)
2lbs Great Northern Beans $2.79
S 2 bags Old Fashioned Oats $2.98
2 cans Ortega green chilies $3.18
S 2 jars Ortega salsa $4.00
Total came to $12.95

Health Food Store:
1/2 Gallon Organic Valley milk $4.99
Organic Valley half 'n half $2.69
Tea $3.59
2 dozen eggs (yeah!) $6.70
Total came to $17.97

Total from last shopping trip $135.60 - 12.95 - 17.97 = 104.68 left for the rest of the month.

Menu/Snack plan here.

Monday, December 19, 2011

REVIEW: Better Batter Gluten Free Flour and GF Snickerdoodle Recipe

I recently got some Better Batter Gluten Free Flour from a friend. At first I tried using it 1:1 in my regular recipes that called for wheat flour, but that didn't work well for me. Not sure why.

So, tonight, after depriving myself of holiday cookie cheer on a few fronts this week, I decided to try making some GF cookies.

I decided on the recipe for Snickerdoodles on the Better Batter website.

I followed the recipe exactly, with the exception of using Spectrum palm shortening instead of "regular" (GMO soy) shortening.

They are delicious! I seriously just ate about 6 of them! They will be perfect for having with tea a couple times a day! (hehe) :)

I look forward to trying the Better Batter Gluten Free Flour in other recipes. :)


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

December 2011: Can I feed a family of 5 for $450/month?

Felt the need to go to the store.

Sour cream $2.79
S 2 lbs butter $5.98
eggs $1.79
S 3 cheese for 3/$5

S 5 bags frozen veggies $5
2 Nestle cocoas for $1ea
2 bags tortilla chips 2/$5
2 single serve chips to keep the kids happy $1 total

Cauliflower $3.99

Total came to $32.55

So, total from last shop $171.15 - 32.55 = $135.60 left for the rest of the month

Monday, December 12, 2011

REVIEW: Nature's Highlights GF Pizza Crust

I've been hunting for a good GF pizza crust. One that didn't leave my eye twitching and my nose itching, that didn't gum up as I ate it, and that didn't leave me feeling like I'd eaten a ball of dough an hour after I ate.

I picked up a box of 2 Nature's Hilights brand Brown Rice Pizza Crusts the other day at the health food store. I made one of them last night and so far they have been the best option I have found.

They cost just over $6 for a pack of 2 crusts. I ate a whole one, though I could have stretched it out to two meals if I had something to eat besides just pizza the other night.
The instructions say to defrost first, but I put the frozen crust in the oven while my family's pizza was baking and followed the instructions after that and it turned out great!

It's not a "thick crust", but it's not exactly a thin crust pizza either. Once assembled, I baked it on the oven rack and it turned out wonderfully crispy on the edges and not very gummy in the middle (I could have baked it a bit longer to fix the slight gumminess in the middle--now I know for next time).

The toppings I used to make my pizza this time were: 2 cubes of Basil from my freezer, olive oil, a blend of cheddar and mozzarella cheese, and nearly a whole 8oz package of fresh sliced mushrooms sauteed with some sliced onion and a large clove of garlic, sliced, and a sprinkling of sea salt. YUMMY!

Ingredients on the crust are listed as: Whole Grain Brown Rice, Potato. Since there is a simple ingredient list and no yeast, I think this might be a possible corn-free product. At any rate, due to the simple ingredient list, I would classify this as a Real Food.

The company doesn't have a website as far as I can find, but they do have the following contact info:
Nature's Hilights, Inc.
P.O. Box 3526
Chico, CA 95927

12/30/11 Note: Based on others' experience with this crust, you might want to overcook the crust/pizza a bit (longer than the instructions on the box suggest to minimize the "gummy" factor). Do watch it closely, though, so it doesn't burn!

Friday, December 9, 2011

December 2011: Can I feed a family of 5 for $450/month?

Today I made my list of things I will need between now and the end of next week and went to the local grocery and the local health food store.

The health food store is still out of eggs (and now peanut butter--not surprised due to stuff I've seen on the news). I may have to hit up a neighbor to see if their chickens are laying...

Local Grocery:
2 pkg tortillas $2.09 ea
S 3 blocks cheese $2 ea
Daisy Sour Cream $1.65
Eggs $1.89

S Frozen peas and frozen mixed veggies $1/ea
S Ice cream $3.99

S/C 2 boxes Chex cereal, $2.99 on sale but I had a coupon for $1 off that makes them $2.50 ea

2 bags Gala apples $2.99 ea
Mushrooms $1.98
Baby Carrots $2.88

Total: $36.33

Health Food Store:

2 half-gallons Organic Valley Milk $4.99 ea
2 Organic Valley Pastured butter $4.59 ea
1 Organic Valley Half and Half $2.59

Local Pork Sausage $5.88

Apricots (unsulphured) $3.91
Sunflower oil $8.49
Spectrum shortening $5.99
Sea Salt $7.29
Cinnamon (bulk-enough to fill my spice jar and more) $1.50
Garlic granules (bulk-enough to fill my spice jar and more) $1.77

Black tea $3.99
Black decaf tea $3.99
Celtic tea (I love Irish Breakfast tea--hoping this is similar) $5.49

Total: $70.05

Total left from last week's shop: $277.53-$36.33-$70.05= $171.15 left for the rest of the month.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

GF RECIPE: GF Oatmeal Buckwheat Pancakes

In my quest for nutritious GF breakfast fare, I found a recipe online that fits my needs, plus it follows the concept of soaking grains: Gluten Freely Frugal's Favorite Gluten Free Pancakes/Waffles. (By the way, I have been finding Gluten Freely Frugal to be very helpful in my endeavor to eat Gluten Free on the cheap.)

I pretty much followed the instructions, with the exception of substituting a heaping 1/2 cup Buckwheat Flour for the 1/2 cup Buckwheat Groats the recipe calls for and subbing butter for oil. I adjusted my liquid as needed and followed other instructions as listed.

Here's the recipe with my alterations:

GF Oatmeal Buckwheat Pancakes
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1/2 cup uncooked rolled oats
  • heaping 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 1TB butter or oil (I used butter this time)
Put the above in your blender and blend for 2-3 minutes, adding a bit of water if needed to keep a vortex going. Leave on your counter at room temperature overnight. (The yogurt makes the grains more digestible and nutrients more accessible to the body.)

In the morning, add the following:
  • 1 egg
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp sea salt
    Blend for a minute or two until combined thoroughly, adding water as needed to keep a vortex going in the blender.
    Heat your griddle and cook.
    Serve with maple syrup and butter or your choice of toppings.

    The kids ate without complaint until I asked how they were, and of course they said that their aunt's pancakes were better (from a mix). I need to learn to quit asking and assume that if they are eating it, it's acceptable!

    This recipe was enough to feed myself and the three kids breakfast before school, but if it was a Saturday morning and my hubby was eating them too, it wouldn't have been enough by itself. Still, it worked great and I can very easily double the recipe! I'm thinking next time I will see how well it works for waffles!

    Here's to Real Food!

    Wednesday, December 7, 2011

    GF/Top 8 Allergy Helps:

    When someone is newly diagnosed with food allergies/sensitivities/intolerances/what have you, they often start with a "I can't have XYZ." outlook as they think about what they will be eating from day to day.  Today's food stores are packed to the brim with food, but if someone has a list of ingredients they can't eat, shopping can quickly become a discouraging chore as many foods are taken off the plate. I know that I often felt very deprived during my year of avoiding so many foods and found it to be quite depressing.

    I would like to encourage the thought of "I can't have XYZ." to become more like "Look at all these things I *can*  have!", because that thought is much more positive, and opens up a realm of possibilities.

    Awhile back, I found a helpful source of information that has opened up some new food options:  I'm not sure why I waited this long to share it!

    I would recommend sitting down with the list and making your own list of foods that you *can* have, and working from there to add some interesting flair to your diet. 

    Multiple Food Allergies?
    When striving to eat Gluten/Top 8 Allergen Free, it can be hard at times to read food labels and know for certain whether a product contains something you are trying to avoid--there's just so much to watch out for, it's overwhelming! One way to simplify things is to avoid processed foods (and even then it's still hard to avoid certain things), but it's also nice to have a list of safe items to have on hand for a change of pace.

    One excellent resource I have found is the Meijer website,  Meijer offers many helps to those of us who are dealing with food issues, the most helpful to me being the Meijer Brand Allergen List.

    Although Gluten is not technically a top 8 allergen, it is included on the Meijer Brand Allergen List, along with each of the top 8 allergens, Starch, and Phenyl.  Meijer has generally been responsive to me when I've contacted them with questions regarding specific products in relation to allergies and derivatives (unlike some other store-brand attempts to find answers), but this listing simplifies the process.

    Of course, if you have allergies beyond the scope of the chart, you would still need to contact the company. And do still pay attention to labels, because they can change without notice.

    The way to get to the Meijer Brand Allergen List (rather than the link above) is to go to  Scroll down to the bottom of the page and under Do More, click Healthy Living.  Then under Special Diets, click Meijer Brand Allergen List, and then click View the List here.

    Only Avoiding Gluten?
    If you are only looking to avoid Gluten, you can simplify your search by going to the Meijer Brand Grocery Gluten-Free Products List.  There is also a Meijer Brand Gluten-Free Drug Store Product List.

    If you don't have a Meijer store in your area, you are probably thinking you read this post for no reason. Have no fear--it's not all for naught! Peruse the Meijer site a bit further and Under Special Diets is a Gluten Free Resources listing, as well as a National Brand Gluten-Free Product List (last updated March of 2011).

    Many thanks to Meijer for making this information available to us!

    Tuesday, December 6, 2011

    RECIPE: GF Cereal Snack Mix

    This mix has been a staple for me since the weather has cooled (and the cereal has gone on sale and I've had coupons).  I altered the Kellogg's Crispix Mix recipe to make it Gluten Free.

    Here's how I make it:

    GF Cereal Snack Mix
    • 7-8 cups Rice or Corn Chex (or other suitable GF cereal--Corn Chex is likely GMO but I haven't found a substitute for it other than to use only Rice Chex)
    • 1 cup Gluten-Free Pretzels (I have used Glutino's, but am open to trying other options)
    • 3 TB butter, melted
    • 4 tsp GF Worchestershire Sauce (Meijer brand is GF, as is Lea and Perrin's)
    • 2 tsp Lemon Juice (I used Lime juice today)
    • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
    • 1/4 tsp onion salt (I only  have garlic and onion powder so I use 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp each garlic and onion pwd)

    1. Heat oven to 250*.
    2. Put cereal and pretzels in a 9x13 pan.
    3. Mix remaining ingredients, pour over cereal and stir.
    4. Place in oven for 20 mins, stir, then put back in for about 30 mins, stirring after about 15mins. 
    5. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
    6. Store in airtight container.


    Monday, December 5, 2011

    RECIPE: GF Crockpot Beef Stew

    Tis the season for a bowl of comfort food. For me, that means Beef Stew.

    Here is the way I make it in the crockpot (spice blend curtesy of my mom's recipe).

    GF Crockpot Beef Stew
    1. Fill crockpot about 3/4 full with about a pound of beef stew meat(ground beef works in a pinch--brown it first) and a mixture of potatoes, carrots, onion, celery and garlic.

    2. Add the following ingredients/spices and stir into veggies/meat:
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp sugar
    • 1 tsp lemon juice (optional)
    • 1 tsp GF Worchestershire Sauce (Meijer brand is Gluten-free, as is Lea & Perrins)
    • 1/2 tsp black pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon paprika (I want to try smoked paprika sometime!)
    • dash of cloves or allspice

    3. Cover with water or GF broth--I used chicken or turkey bone broth from the freezer (or, depending on how much liquid you like, don't cover completely with water--but do add at least a cup or so of liquid), put lid on and cook on high for 4 hours or so(or longer on low). 

    4. If you would like to thicken your stew, mix about 1/4 cup gluten-free flour mix (the more starchy ones come in handy here) with a bit of cold water and stir into stew and let cook a bit longer until it thickens up. A different starch would work too (such as corn starch)--just be sure you don't use wheat flour or another gluten-y flour.

    Serve and Enjoy!

    Pic to come!

    Saturday, December 3, 2011

    December 2011: Can I feed a family of 5 for $450/month?

    Posting about my grocery purchases has kept me rather accountable, so I plan to continue keeping an online record for a while longer.

    In the interest of saving gas money (and avoiding impulse purchases), I opted to shop at our local health food store and grocery rather than to drive 20-30 mins to the larger stores.

    Head Lettuce: 1.49
    Celery .99
    5 3lb bags of apples(most of which I plan to dehydrate) 2.99 each
    Mushrooms 1.50
    4 red peppers 1.00 ea
    4 bags frozen mixed veggies $1 ea
    2 bags frozen broccoli $1 ea

    9 8oz pkgs various cheese, on sale for 3/$5
    Daisy Cottage Cheese $2.99
    3 half-gallons rbgh-free milk $1 each
    Amish Smoked Cheese $4.29 (this is my splurge item--for snack this week-real smoked cheese, not "smoke flavored")

    Bacon $2.49 (to help me vamp up breakfasts)
    Meat Valu Pack- $19.99 Not great health food and not an awesomely healthy purchase, but I figured it was a good way to have backup food in case we are snowed in this winter or the electricity goes out and we need some quick to prepare meats: 2 packages sausages, ham slice, bacon, hot dogs

    3 pkg burrito tortillas $2.09 ea
    1 pkg fajita tortillas $1.59
    2 loaves WW bread $2.39 ea
    Baker's Chocolate $3.49
    Freeze Pops for the sick kid $.50
    2 Hunt's Snack Pack puddings $1 ea
    2 Hunt's Spaghetti Sauce $.98 ea
    1 pkg WW Spaghetti $1.79
    Brown Sugar $1.50
    5 cans pumpkin $1 ea
    2 cans evap milk $1 ea

    Total came to $114.16

    Health Food Store:
    (No eggs :()
    Beef stew meat $6.71
    Beef ground 5.89
    GF Pizza Crust $6.65 (to be posted about soon!)
    GF Tortillas $3.59
    2 loaves Udi's bread $3.99 ea
    Tea 3.39 and 3.59
    Rice noodles $2.69 (new to me--going to try with fish sauce, below)
    Fish Sauce $3.49 (new to me)
    Tinkyada pastas $3.59 and $3.19

    Total came to $50.76

    Since the HFS didn't have eggs, I ran across the street to Family Dollar and got:
    2 dozen commercial eggs $2.40 ea
    1 carton Egg Nog (dh's favorite--I try to get it at least once/year for him) $2.75

    Total came to $7.55

    Grand Total Spent: $172.47

    So, $450-172.47= $277.53 left for the rest of the month

    Menu plan for the month is Here.

    December 2011: Menu Planning

    Having gone through my food stores to see what I still have on hand, I made up a rough menu for the month of December.

    Since I chose to shop local, I decided to only shop for this coming week and not to do a lot of stocking up unless stuff was on a good sale. Having done my menu plan and knowing what I have on hand gave me a pretty good idea of what to put on the list.

    Rather than give you a precise schedule of what I put on what day of the week, I'll just give you a list of what we plan on having for dinner. Because I often change it up a bit, but usually pick something on the plan since I have the ingredients handy. :)

    • Pizza X 2 (purchased 2 GF crusts for me, regular deli pizza/making wheat crust for the fam)
    • Sandwiches for supper X 2 (Udi's bread for me, 100% Whole Wheat without hfcs for the fam)
    • Black Beans and Rice for the fam(because my allergies acted up for some reason when I was cooking this, I made a pot of GF Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup for myself and to share for lunch this weekend)
    • Beef Stew with GF biscuits if I can find a good recipe to use my Namaste or Better for Batter flour mix in...or just with garlic toast (regular for the fam/Udi's for me).
    • Roast Duck (in the freezer that really needs to be used), Beets (from the garden--Must Harvest!), Pie (made from Butternut Squash from the garden--> GF Crustless Pumpkin Pie style)
    • Beef Liver (that I have yet to figure out how to cook, lol), Homemade Mac and Cheese of some sort because I doubt the liver will go over well (hehe), Broccoli, Potatoes?
    • Regular Spaghetti (read: the kids want tomato based, not white sauce or chicken spaghetti, lol)....something else for dh and I, probably leftovers from another meal
    • Chicken Fingers and fries (maybe--if I can suck it up and buy the mega-spendy GF ones....or maybe I'll eat leftovers and the kids will get cheap ones--this is planned for a Family Movie Night instead of the usual *yawn* pizza )
    • Beans (cooked w/Ham Hocks) and GF Cornbread
    • Salmon Patties or Loaf and veggies, maybe some sort of pasta
    • Chicken/Turkey Soup X 3 (especially w/the abundance of turkey bone broth and the illnesses going around!)
    • Enchiladas (need to make corn tortillas w/the Masa Flour I purchased-way less additives than storebought corn tortillas and since the Masa is made of white corn, I think it's less likely to be GMO)
    • Hamburger Stroganoff and veggies(sauteed green beans/onions/mushrooms)
    • GF Chicken Spaghetti-knockoff from Pioneer Woman's recipe
    Breakfasts will be what's left of the cereal, Bagels from the freezer, eggs and bacon, pancakes, Oatmeal/other hot cereal.
    The kids generally eat school lunch, and dh and I generally have leftovers for lunch. I may also have a nut-butter sandwich and an apple or whatever I happen to find around the house. :-)
    Snacks are: Carrots, Apples and Cheese, Oranges, Popcorn, Granola Bars, Chex Mix (that I need to make from cereal left from last month), and maybe some Muddy Buddies/Puppy Chow made from Chex as a treat. Monster Cookies, when I get around to making those. Pudding cups or homemade tapioca pudding or maybe rice pudding.

    Friday, December 2, 2011

    Farm Fresh Egg Shortage?

     I went to the local health food store to pick up some of their pastured chicken eggs (which I love). The eggs they carry are from a local farmer and well worth the extra $1 they cost when compared to "regular" storebought eggs.  Turns out that the chickens have quit laying, though! The farmer even bought more laying hens to help remedy the problem, and those hens have also quit laying!

    It's a bit early for chickens to quit laying, especially with our so-far very mild and warmish weather for this time of year.

    In talking further with one of the health food store workers, their chickens had also molted early and are not laying much at all. She had thought this was due to not having heat/light on in the coop, but her friend's coop has light and heat and even she is having this problem.

    Also, it seems an Amish family semi-locally has observed this same problem. It seems that the chickens molted not too long ago, had a little break, but now are molting yet again (and laying hardly at all).

    I think I got the right details with the right people up there. At any rate, this is a strange thing to have happen to so many different flocks at the same time!

    I wonder if possibly..
    ~the warmer weather and rain has led to the chickens not laying,
    ~the chicken feed companies are cutting back on their protein in the feed and that's causing the chickens to back off on the laying,
    ~or if they're doing an animal survival thing of reserving their energy for the (supposed) long winter ahead?

    Just some thoughts....
    Has there been an farm-fresh egg shortage in your local area?

    A pic from Memory Lane....back when I had chickens...and my own eggs!

    Thursday, December 1, 2011

    November 2011, Week 4+: Can I feed a family of 5 for $450/month?

    Well, folks, I did it! I was stubborn and refused to go to the store since my last shop, so I ended the month with $2.63 to spare. Even though I "needed" some things, I was able to make do with what we had for the rest of the month. (Having sick kids for a day or two also helped give me incentive to stay home.)

    Of course, hubby says "there's nothing to eat". We aren't anywhere near going hungry, though. We just don't have much easy-to-grab-and-eat stuff around. And I'm out of easy proteins for him, such as cheese sticks.  Being "out of regular food" isn't bad overall, though. If we're truly hungry, we can eat an apple, orange, carrot, bowl of cereal(hot or cold), popcorn, nut butter or tuna sandwich...etc.  To me, that is still food.

    For breakfast, my son requested pancakes. I am out of eggs and most "regular" I googled an eggless pancake recipe and subbed in GF flour (only because I didn't have enough regular flour left). Had to add a lot more milk, but it worked ok. Actually, it went over much better than did the oatmeal I served the kids for breakfast yesterday(the boys resisted, Ivy gobbled it up happily). :)

    Looking forward to going to the store, though! But not today as planned...sick kiddo.
    Menu planning for next month and hopefully shopping soon.

    Has anyone found these postings helpful? 
    Is there any other info that you are curious about pertaining to the topic at hand? 

    Please comment below! :)